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Not all, but some of the groundwork for the supportive nature surrounding the 2013 St. Mary’s College of Maryland Seahawks field hockey team may have been laid in Ireland during the spring of this year.

Then-juniors Claire Kortyna and Rachel Heiss studied abroad in Ireland together, becoming closer and forming a bond.

Now the two lone seniors on this year’s version of the St. Mary’s field hockey team, the two are the moms and big sisters to a group that sixth-year head coach Katie Newkirk, formerly Lange, called supportive.

“There are only two captains this year, and we’re the only two seniors so we’re just like momma ducks,” Kortyna said. “It’s like we’re moms and big sisters.”

Kortyna recounted a story in which her big sister abilities were put to an early test during the current preseason. She walked a teammate home who was a bit nervous about meeting people. A sit down and a chat later, things were looking up.

“It’s just one of those things where we are there to support them and answer any questions,” Kortyna said. “The reason I go out every day is because of those girls.”

Heiss also admitted that the trickle down effect of her and Kortyna’s relationship has been felt on the team.

“I think that’s a part of it, but I also think that everyone individually has such great personalities and everyone meshes really well,” Heiss said. “I really like our level of skill. There are high levels of skills and abilities, and we’re just a strong team this year.”

The Seahawks had its 2012 season end in the Capital Athletic Conference semifinals, with a 5-1 loss to Mary Washington (Va.) last November.

With one more season in her future, Heiss admitted that winning a conference title would make her senior season special and she understands what it will take to get there.

“I think working on little details and just knowing that we are kind of a step ahead with our skill levels,” she said. “If we just tweak the little things, I think that we will be able to push it a little further.”

Getting to that special senior season will be a tougher task than it was last year on the offensive side; the Seahawks lost forward Lauriann Parker to graduation.

Parker, an All-CAC first-team member, graduated as the program’s all-time leader in points (111), goals (44), assists (23) and minutes played (4,239), among other high-program all-time ranks.

“She was a big scorer,” Newkirk said of Parker. “But I think that we have a lot of new freshmen talent coming in and we have a sophomore that is going to be stepping in and a returning junior on the front line. So, I am not as worried as everybody thought I was going to be. I think we have a lot of new talent from our attackers.”

Newkirk said she is not only happy with her offense, but that having two experienced goalies in juniors Christy Bishop and Kelly Shuman makes her confident in her lineup from front to back.

But even with the talent and skills, it all comes back to the supportive nature and cohesive nature as a unit.

“I love that this is a positive team,” Kortyna said. “There is not one person who gets down on another player when someone messes up. If you make a mistake on the field, everyone is just there being supportive and telling you try harder and do better. We’re a unified front, and I love that.”

The Seahawks will put that support on display when they take the field for the season-opening contest at 5 p.m. today at Delaware Valley College (Pa.).

St. Mary’s College of Maryland field hockey

Head coach: Katie Newkirk (sixth season)

Last year: 8-8, 1-4 (fifth in CAC)

Athletes to watch: M Claire Kortyna (Sr.), M Rachel Heiss (Sr.), D Ally Dahlen (So.), D Daniella Hanacek (Jr.), GK Christy Bishop (Jr.), GK Kelly Shuman (Jr.)

Key personnel losses: F Lauriann Parker (All-CAC), D Ali McIntosh (All-CAC)

Strengths: Newkirk said that this team is full of supportive players, and the support is present throughout the roster. With that support comes the positive encouragement to be better on the field. Newkirk also mentioned that the team is simply a fun bunch to be around, saying, “They make me laugh.”

Weaknesses: Newkirk admitted that she does not have many concerns heading into the year. She said she has veterans throughout all of the positions, which is combined with talented newcomers.

Coach’s comments: “We want to win a lot more than we lose. The first step is making our conference playoffs, and the next step would be to go as far as possible. I’d love to compete for a conference championship. ... There are a lot of positive vibes coming in. My returning players did such a good job of welcoming in the new players and really creating a lot of team cohesion.”

Key games: Oct. 5 vs. Christopher Newport (Va.), Oct. 16 vs. Mary Washington (Va.), Oct. 23 at Salisbury, Oct. 26 vs. Wesley (Del.)

JAMES A. McCRAY III

jmccray@somdnews.com